Godalming Lawn Tennis Club History


Written by Judith Henderson (Member and daughter of founder members Erica and Ted Holl with additional information from former member Norman Gravestock)

In 1938 a small group of people together with help from the local clergyman in Croft Road had formed St Peters and St Pauls Badminton Club which played in the Church room in Queen Street. They decided they also wanted to play tennis and on March 15th 1938 they met in the Borough Hall to form the Tennis Club which was called the Rectoria Tennis Club. The Club started with 29 members and they played two nights a week at Holloway Hill Recreation ground and 1 night behind the old Victoria Motorworks hence the name.The Victoria Motorworks was beside the old fire station in Queens Street and the tennis courts are long gone, now being the site of Jubilee House.

At this time tennis was really only played by the affluent and the Club helped make tennis available to the less well-off working man and woman. Subs were set at 12s 6d and there was no pavilion, members would sit on a long stone wall adjacent to Pound Lane awaiting their turn to play.

Dress codes in those days were rather prim with frocks and skirts below the knee, men often wore long trousers and everyone wore white, pleated shorts would become quite a modern fashion and it was a long time before the track suit came in. Rackets were very different in those days, being wooden and often strung with gut, it was a slower game, money was tight so rackets had to be looked after carefully and kept in a press when not in use and had a waterproof cover to protect from rain.

Despite many men and women joining the war effort the Club continued throughout this period mainly due to Harvey Bierton one of the early members who was in the Home Guard a reserved occupation and therefore around. In those days a few matches were arranged with local Clubs including Witley and Milford who no longer exist. Catering was provided for the friendly matches in the old Guide hut on Holloway Hill once the Cricketers had had their tea! Few people had cars in those days so away matches relied on buses and their timetable. No cars also made socials more of a challenge, to get home from a dance in Compton all members linked arms and walked back along the road!

Members of the forces on leave could play for 6d and those awaiting call up could join for 3s 6d. By 1941 the supply of balls had virtually dried up and one member got them sent over from Canada and by 1942 old balls were being reconditioned, how is that done? Throughout the war shortage of balls was a problem and by 1942 membership was down to 11 ladies and 9 men. In 1944 the Club obtained 7 dozen reconditioned balls which helped them continue.

The standard started to improve and after the War the Club relocated to two hard courts in Farncombe Street behind Jacksons bakery. It was not ideal, initially the occupants of the surrounding houses were curious with heads peering over the fence to watch, however this did not last, and lost balls remained lost and residents often lit their weekly bonfire on a Club night to smoke them out. It was at Jacksons that the first pavilion was acquired (by my father Ted Holl) the club was allowed to erect it on bakery land as Mr Jackson was also a member. He contributed £50 being a half share. It was really no more than a large shed with a veranda with no water, light or other facilities but did provide shelter. This venue was very convenient for The Rising Sun opposite and members would take a shopping bag of bread and cheese to accompany their drinks.

In 1949 the first Club Championships were held. In 1952 the name was changed to Godalming Rectoria Club. In 1954 the landlord announced we would not be able to use the courts the following year which brought about urgent meetings with the council, the outcome was the council would build 2 courts at Broadwater for the Clubs exclusive use. The Club was required to contribute £300 which was raised by interest free loans from members, the name was changed again to the Godalming Lawn Tennis Club. The old pavilion was purchased and moved to Broadwater and cups were purchased for the Championships. Two small huts were erected at the back of the pavilion to provide very primitive elson toilet facilities (how things have changed) At this time the Club also set up a junior section and received coaching once a week from the Charterhouse professional Eric Hawes.

Things were looking up now the Club was more settled and in 1963 a third court was built and playing standards continued to improve.

By the late 1960’s and early 70’s we won the Chaucer Mixed League 5 times in succession and the Chaucer Mens. Individual players were also successful at the Cranleigh Tournament.

By 1973 it was obvious we needed to improve our facilities and replace the clubhouse, plans were drawn, quotes obtained and it equally obvious we could not afford one. It was decided the only thing to do was build it ourselves and after months of hard work and the efforts of many members led by Norman Gravestock this was achieved for the sum of £1437 once again through interest free member loans. We later fitted a wooden floor obtained from a school in Hindhead.

On top of all this activity the Club still managed to hold some good social events including a car Rally, bonfire parties, barbecues, stool ball and podex matches on Hambledon Village Green against the cricket Club.

In the 80’s the table tennis section was started and we also obtained a 25 year lease from the Council, this enabled us to extend the pavilion and add showers and toilets.

By 1983 the courts needed relaying and a new surface was decided upon. To reduce costs and saving £1500 club members broke up the old courts, dug trenches and laid ducts for future floodlighting and with this saving we were able to build a practice wall and apron.

Member numbers continued to increase and in 1986 our most ambitious project of installing floodlights was completed costing nearly £10,000 but proved to be money well spent and numbers increased to 165. We were one of the first clubs in the area to do this and members of other clubs joined for the benefit of the lights which allowed evening play throughout the year.

In 1994 we acquired the two public courts adjacent to ours to become a 5 court club, these were officially opened by my mother Erica Holl one of the founder members and vice president at the time. Floodlighting was extended to the new courts as soon as funds allowed.

We now have a much more sophisticated Clubhouse thanks to Chris Early and the Committee which was formally opened by Jeremy Hunt in 2015.

2022 saw the resurfacing of courts 1 and 2 and remedial painting of the other 3 courts.